All parents want the best for their children, but when it comes to education, exactly what is likely to be most effective can be difficult to determine. Different children can have very different needs and respond in different ways to the same methods. To get the best results requires not only a good school but also good teachers and active involvement on your part – but where should you start?
When and how should education begin?
Although children in Britain usually start school at four and a half or five, this isn’t the case everywhere in the world, and there’s increasing evidence that early years are better spent on play – a natural form of learning. Some schools acknowledge this by incorporating a strong element of play into their primary level activities. In a suitably stimulating environment, this gives children the chance to pursue learning in directions that particularly interest them, giving them a strong appetite for education before the more formal process begins. Children can be ready for formal learning at different stages, and a child who learns to read at two or play the piano at four may still be more successful in other subjects if they are approached later on.
Public funded schools
The comprehensive school system is designed, primarily, to make sure that every child has access to a good basic education. It tends to be good for middle-ranking achievers but it doesn’t always provide those who struggle with the help they need, or provide high achievers with the stimulation they require. Overall quality varies a lot between different areas. On the plus side, it means your children can socialise with others who live locally, helping them to form friendships they can enjoy all year round.
The academy system recently introduced in England includes some schools with a special focus on particular subject areas, which can be good for some children, but overall quality varies a great deal so you will need to choose carefully.
Because it offers a wider range of choices, private education is more easily tailored to the needs of individual children. Boarding schools are an option but many parents succeed in finding good quality private schools close to home. Kingsdale Foundation School is an establishment that has been celebrated for its high performance and the modern learning environment it provides. With a particular focus on mathematics, music and sports, it aims to help children develop in a rounded way so they can become productive members of society. This type of education tends to provide a lot more stimulation to high achievers, supporting them in developing their abilities to the full, even if that means going beyond the set curriculum.
Montessori and Waldorf schools
If your children haven’t been doing well in other schools and you want to try something different, a Montessori school could make a difference by focusing on their passions and encouraging them to engage with learning as a process of exploration. Alternatively, a Waldorf school could help to spark their imaginations and draw out their creative talents. Schools like this can be particularly good for children who find it difficult to fit into a more conventional learning environment.
Other educational opportunities
Intelligent children and those with particular educational passions can also benefit from extra-curricular educational activities, whether these are associated with their school or provided by other organisations. The increasing availability of high quality online courses means that children can study to an advanced level at home, even if you can’t afford a private tutor. Local educational groups, meanwhile, can also provide great social opportunities and help make learning fun again for children who have struggled to make friends at school.
Supporting your children’s learning
No matter how good the help they’re getting elsewhere, your children need help from you if they’re really going to reach their potential. This begins with simply taking an interest and showing them that you value what they’re doing at school. It means helping them with homework where you can, not by telling them the answers but by encouraging them to think laterally, to think critically and to develop research skills.
Some children are very good at memorising a lot of information for a short time. Others can do an impressive job of learning by rote without really understanding anything. This means that exam results alone can’t tell you everything about how your children are getting on. The most important think to look for is enthusiasm. If they’re excited by learning and keep telling you new things about what they’ve discovered, they are well on their way to success.